Posts Tagged ‘global warming

29
Apr
09

Swine Flu – It’s Not the First, Won’t Be The Last

What a strange coincidence that a potentially pandemic illness originating from domesticated livestock mushrooms at the exact same time I am reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.

In simplified terms, Diamond describes in his book how food-producing populations have been exposed for thousands of years to influenzas and other diseases carried by domesticated animals. Those with the genetic strength to overcome the illnesses or avoid them all-together lived to reproduce and, thus, propagate their genetic supremacy. Some bugs are meaner then others, hence the bubonic plague and Ebola virus.

These inevitable illnesses have made quite a mark on the development on human geopolitical history. Because food producers (FP) were exposed to these diseases and overcame them while hunter gatherers (HG) did not, the FPs easily decimated or wiped out many an HG tribe and culture. Smallpox has quite the reputation for being such a population reducer.

The main point here, however, is that as much horror and, possibly, death as the avian flu or the swine flu might wreak upon the global population, diseases transmitted from animals to humans are as natural as exinction. So long as humans live in close quarters with animals, and such cohabitation is unavoidable, the potential pandemic is always around the corner.

Me, I try not to be a germ-a-phobe. With weakened immune systems, our bodies cannot handle contact with the feces of many beasties. Sure, we don’t want to give each other illnesses, but a little dirty is good. So, I’ll start the Just Say No To the Wipey and Hand Sanitizer Campaign now.

As survival of the fittest is real, the cleaner we become as a species, the weaker we become. Looking on the bright side, it may not matter anyway since we’re killing our environment so rapidly, our only hope is space pods on Mars. Hello! Point me to the nearest mass-suicide cult ASAP!

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14
Apr
09

Earth Hour – This Photo Series is Cool as Hell

I’ve been meaning to post this link to a Boston Globe piece showing the difference between recognizable destinations from around the globe lit up and then darkened during Earth Hour. Just click on the photos to see the before and after differences.

And, yes, I particpated in Earth Hour – however, I was still cooking a relatively complicated meal and had to push back my particular Earth Hour to 9:30-10:30 p.m. My bad. Next year, I’ll do better – promise! I encourage others do so as well, if they can, because it is such an easy way to make a statement and participate in a movement that benefits all of us. Yay.

10
Sep
08

Saving U.S. Dominance and the Environment

Hegemony [hejuh-moh-nee] – leadership or predominant influence exercised by one nation over others, as in a confederation.

The Washington Post reported on the upcoming report “Global Trends 2025” by Thomas Fingar, “the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst,” in which Fingar predicts U.S. dominance will decline in the coming decades. Fingar goes on to say that U.S. military strength “will ‘be the least significant’ asset in the increasingly competitive world of the future, because ‘nobody is going to attack us with massive conventional force.'”

“The U.S. will remain the preeminent power, but that American dominance will be much diminished,” Fingar said, according to a transcript of the Thursday speech. He saw U.S. leadership eroding “at an accelerating pace” in “political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas.”

In the years ahead, Washington will no longer be in a position to dictate what new global structures will look like. Nor will any other country, Fingar said. “There is no nobody in a position . . . to take the lead and institute the changes that almost certainly must be made in the international system,” he said.

The predicted shift toward a less U.S.-centric world will come at a time when the planet is facing a growing environmental crisis, caused largely by climate change, Fingar said. By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity of fresh water will plague large swaths of the globe, from northern China to the Horn of Africa.

CNN’s Farheed Zakaria makes a very good point, WaPo points out, in his book, “The Post-American World,” in which he claims that the decline in U.S. dominance is due more to the rise of other economies (China, India) than an actual slide by the U.S.

The world is in fluctuation and always will be. What this means for Republicans – especially Old School

Republicans – who follow the “Might Makes Right” theory is that their views are growing antiquated and useless. The United States, especially under George W. Bush, has engaged in an arrogant, isolationist foreign policy that does not take into account global geopolitical currents or world opinion. McCain is obviously of the same fabric and same blind mindset. The United States must interact with and seek cooperation with foreign countries rather than spouting our view and vilifying those who disagree with us. It’s petty and unproductive.

Now we face a declining economy – which will result in a weakened military. And instead of working on new technologies, as Americans have always done, to progress our country and kick start our economy again, the Republicans are stupidly chanting “drill now, drill now.” By burying their heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the importance of alternative energy development, they are attempting to forfeit our future – and not just environmentally.

Alternative and clean energy development could be our next Dot BOOM, it could be our next technological breakthrough and economic stronghold. Americans have long dominated innovation and technological progress. Of the 4,222,954 patents in the world, 2,460,775 have come from the U.S. We are creatures of development – the discovery of electricity, the light bulb, the steam engine, the telephone, the television, the car, the computer – you name major technological advances in the last 200 years and the U.S. almost always has its stamp on it.

And its time we did again.

Let’s discuss our oil industry. Gas prices have risen so steeply largely due to growing global demand for oil – especially from China and India. Now that prices have slid a bit and the oil industry is learning where America’s pain threshold is in regard to oil prices – at least when we’re in an economic downturn – they will not allow prices to return to the days of cheap fuel.

Just today, OPEC decided to reduce overall output by 500,000 barrels a day to offset the recent decrease in prices – even though Ike is barreling toward the Texas coast. You see, even when prices are “outrageously” high, OPEC will still make sure that profits are maximized. So what’s the answer? Well, you saw what Republicans wanted to do.

The problem? First of all, drilling now solves nothing because we do not have the refining infrastructure to handle the increase in fuels – largely due to inattention by Washington and the whole Not In My Backyard argument. About a month ago, when a McCain spokesman (can’t remember his name, but he had ring-around-the-head and a goatee) was asked about the infrastructure issue, he said, “One problem at a time!” So, he was basically saying drill first, ask questions later. Not smart policy.

Secondly, oil companies are given leases – areas of land upon which they may drill – for around 10 years. There is plenty of hydrocarbon-rich land available to the oil companies now, but these lengthy leases reduce the competition by the oil companies and many hang on to the available land without ever drilling.

Our domestic oil companies like high prices as well and as soon as prices begin to slide because “we’re not dependent on foreign oil,” they will slow production enough to drive demand and squeeze more money from the consumer.

So, Americans are not just held hostage by oil-rich foreign countries, Americans are also held hostage by our own domestic oil companies.

But no one wants to tell you this – not Barack Obama and certainly not John McCain because they enjoy corporate donations.

What’s the answer?

Alternative, reusable, natural and clean energy. Not only does it lessen the grip oil companies have on our wallets and our economy, the entire world is in desperate need and want of alternative fuels. If we develop the technology that our global partners are clamoring for, we can not only save the environment, we can save our standing in the world.

We must not let the Right Wing – with their Big Oil cohorts – kill the most viable option we have for America’s future by closing the door to new clean energy. Furthermore, the dumbing-down of our children by the Religioners and their assault on our science classes has got to stop. We have a major fight brewing in the Texas Board of Education regarding the introduction of Creationism or at least the doubting of Evolution into our schools and I’m sure this is occuring in many other states. This will hurt America – culturally, economically and globally. Ensuring the best and brightest and most-prepared students emerge from our educational institutes should be a major priority because their actions will dictate whether our nation progresses or withers.

You want to protect America? Protect science classes, encourage serious scientific education, and support the development of clean energy.

02
Jul
08

Anti-Intellectualism Half a Century Ago

History repeats itself – an oft-repeated proverb warning us that the the lessons of the past are once again the sins of today. Certainly, I found myself mentally saying a church-worthy Amen! to this proverb as I began reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, published in 1962, 1963.

anti-intellectualism in american life

Let me just say that if this weren’t a library book, I’d be highlighting the hell out of it. Instead, I’m reduced to tearing post-it after post-it to mark all the points of interest. And I haven’t started Chapter 2. My consumption of this work is a result of research I’m conducting for my own respective book, butrichard hofstadter phots Hofstadter’s observations have already shocked me into open-mouth disbelief as his descriptions of the anti-intellectualism of the 1950’s readily apply to today’s culture clash between the learned and the petrified. The author does assert that anti-intellectualism suffers cyclical fluctuations and will never fully abate to the netherworlds of silly history, with other theories such as “the sun revolves around the Earth” and “the 2008 election will be between Giuliani and Hillary” (yeah, that was my own Nostradamus endeavors into electoral predictions).

So, please forgive the length of this blog as I indulge myself by providing a few (a bunch?) unusually relevant excerpts from Chapter 1, with my intensely insightful commentary to follow.

…the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets precipitated one of those periodic surges of self-conscious national reappraisal to which the American public is prone. The Sputnik was more than a shock to American national vanity: it brought an immense amount of attention to bear on the consequences of anti-intellectualism in the school sysytem and in American life at large. Suddenly, the national distaste for intellect appeared to be not just a disgrace but a hazard to survival. Pg 4-5.

Perhaps I’m overreaching in my cocoon of progressive political theory, but I view global warming and the rise in fuel prices as the space race of our day. Before you emit a Moe-esqe, “Whaaaa?”, allow me to explain. While there are untold quantities of hydrocarbon beneath the surface of the Earth in not only the U.S., but also Iran, Russia, the South China Sea and other areas, global energy demands – especially of India and China – are helping fuel the rise petrol prices and will continue to do so.

The U.S. must focus on a transcendent energy policy today in the same manner we did with the space race in the ’60’s. Scientific ambitions aiming at a forward-thinking fuel-efficiency and alternative-energy development will help the U.S. maintain a technological and, thus, economic advantage in global markets. If we can me be a maverick in this area, we just might hold on to our hegemony a bit longer – though that need not be the main goal. We need to ride the wave of motivation high gas prices are providing toward cleaner energy and end our reign as Pollution Bastards of the World (especially as China will pick up the slack and more).

The labels of Intellectuals and Anti-Intellectuals were thrown around in the 1950’s in much the same way Liberal and Conservative are today. They were used as bad words by those who hurled them against their opponents and worn as badges of honor by those they described. Obviously, Hofstadter was an intellectual and the examples of anti-intellectual rhetoric he presents are laughable in this day and age – hopefully in the same manner Creationism and Intelligent Design will be laughable in another half century. If you haven’t chuckled today, allow me to send some historical fodder from Anti-Intellectualim your way that will surely entertain:

Novelist “of the right-wing persuasion,” Louis Broomfield, pg 9:

Egghead (euphemism for intellectual): A person of spurious intellectual pretensions…Fundamentally superficial. Over emotional and feminine in reactions to any problem. Supercilious and surfeited with conceit and contempt for the experience of more sound and able men. Essentially confused in thought and immersed in mixture of sentimentality and violent evangelism…

President Eisenhower’s definition of an intellectual, pg. 10:

…a man who takes more words than are necessary to tell more than he knows.

The disdain for intellectualism opened education and the education system itself up for the attacks from the more conservative commentators of the day as well.

Billy Graham, pg 15:

billy grahamYou can stick a public school and a university in the middle of every block of every city in America and you will never keep America from rotting morally by mere intellectual education.

[In place of the Bible] we substituted reason, rationalism, mind culture, science worship, the working power of government, Freudianism, humanism, behaviorism, positivism, materialism, and idealism. [This work of ] so-called intellectuals. Thousands of these ‘intellectuals’ have publicly stated that morality is relative–that there is no norm or absolute standard…

Arthur Bestor, junior-high school principal in Illinois, pg. 17:

When we come to the realization that not every child has to read, figure, write and spell . . . that many of them either cannot or will not master these chores . . . then we shall be on the road to improving the junior high curriculum.

(This is the best part) Between this day and that a lot of selling must take place. But it’s coming. We shall some day accept the thought that it is just as illogical to assume that every boy must be able to read as it is that each one must be able to perform on a violin, that it is no more reasonable to require that each girl shall spell well than it is that each one shall bake a good cherry pie.

I’ve never made a cherry pie, but I can make a mean cherry cobbler. Does that count?

Jack Schwartzman, of the Freeman, pg. 13:

Our universities are the training grounds for the barbarians of the future, those who, in the guise of learning , shall come forth loaded with pitchforks of ignorance and cynicism, and stab and destroy the remnants of human civilization…

If you send your son to the college of today, you will create the Executioner of tomorrow. The rebirth of idealism must come from the scattered monasteries of non-collegiate thought.

Does it get any better than that?! This quotation thoroughly tickles my funny bone because I have a close family member, who recently turned 70, who continually blames my political viewpoints on the fact that I attended “one of those liberal universities.” I had no idea the University of Texas was a cesspool of left-wing larva ready infiltrate governmental policy-making (don’t tell the frat boys!). In fact, he repeats that these “liberal colleges” are why young people tack liberal and why this world is going to hell in a handbag. I continually try to remind him that I retained nothing from college classes. Especially French.

And perhaps to close, this final quotation from Hofstadter himself that proves yet another proverb: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Pg 12 – and keep in mind, he wrote this in 1962:

Far more acute and sweeping was the hostility to intellectuals expressed on the far-right wing, a categorical folkish dislike of the educated classes and of anything respectable, established, pedigreed, or cultivated. The right-wing crusade of the 1950’s was full of heated rhetoric about ‘Harvard professors, twisted-thinking intellectuals . . . in the State Department.’

Am I the only one who feels like they’re in the Twilight Zone? George Bush thinks the jury is still out on global warming AND evolution. Hillary Clinton somehow warped into the working man’s candidate (talk about shape-shifting) and decried “experts” who opposed her gas tax holiday. Schools across the country are peppered with teachers who want to assert Intelligent Design as a scientific principle when it’s the absolute antithesis to the definition of science itself.

When will these perverted objectors realize that science, math, literature – EDUCATION – is what provided them their military weaponry, their computers, their energy capabilities, every day conveniences, “free market” dreams, and overall U.S. success and domination. It is a shame that people have to suffer when factories close and the jobs that require less education go overseas. As it is natural for species to go extinct in biological evolution and so is the case with jobs during economic evolution. Would the laid-off factor worker rather keep his job, yet amputate the very tools with which the U.S. retains its global position and military domination? Well, that would be unpatriotic.

Anti-Intellectualism is an embarrassment that has enjoyed many a decade hindering the development of humanity. For some inexplicable reason, Americans tend to wallow in more than their fair share. I suppose fear of change and development is at the heart of the matter, though it is hard for me to reconcile the “Great American Dream” with this entrenched detestation of progress and reason.

I do, however, think we’ve come a long way since Hofstadter penned his academic opinions. College education is ever more the norm and I’m sure 50 years from now we’ll laugh at the crazy old people who didn’t want the gays to marry and thought someone having a college education was a clear indication of anbush bumpersticker like a rock only dumber elitist in their midst. And I appreciated a sentiment by James Carville (who has stoked some of my ire during the current primary season) who said on AC 360 the other evening, “Competence is patriotic.” Well, halle-freaking-lujah.

I can tell I’m really going to enjoy the rest of this book. In the meantime, let’s get-to on those alternative energy sources!!




Scarlet Letter of Atheism

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